Thursday, May 9, 2013

NARD DOG:  In the history of network television, where does (continuing the show and) elevating Robert California, then Andy Bernard as Dunder Mifflin's Scranton regional manager rank as a creative blunder? Up there with Bobby Ewing's lost season on Dallas? I don't even know what other examples to employ, in terms of creative mistakes (and not merely failed single episodes) made by otherwise successful shows -- the third-season stalling on Lost? the Scott Templeton plot in The Wire's last season? Roseanne's last season?

After "Search Committee," the show was in a position to elevate Jim Halpert as someone finally recognizing (a) now that he and Pam have a kid, Scranton is their life; and (b) no one else can do a good a job of running that branch as he can. And I don't think the show needed to have an incompetent boss in order to succeed creatively; the cast is rich enough that Jim can remain the sane one sorting out the madness swirling around him.

Instead, they went from James Woods' (but that would've been something) Spader's wackiness to Ed Helms' varying between Michael Scott Lite and Just Plain Annoying; at no point did the show really seem to gel around either. Even elevating a not-artificially-made-stupid Darryl Philbin would have been better than this. What a shame.

added: Via Twitter, between Matt, Isaac, and Randy, we can add: the Doumanian season of SNL; Landry and Tyra kill a dude; and the Kalinda & Nick stuff from TGW. And more.


  1. Marsha11:09 AM

    I can't include the third season Lost stalling on this list - they knew it was bad when they were doing it, and they made it clear to the network that there could only be more of the same unless they let them have an ending date. Sometimes things like that are going to happen because of the business of broadcast TV, but it's not as if they went in a bad creative direction.

    But oh, lord yes, was the last three seasons of The Office a disaster. I'm still watching, but yeesh.

  2. The X-Files got pretty bad after Duchovny left. (Actually, it had been pretty bad for a couple of years before that.) Introducing Robert Patrick and then Annabeth Gish didn't really do anything to help improve things.

    Twin Peaks, for all its strengths and quirks, became a different, far less interesting thing after Laura Palmer's murder was solved. (And yes, I know that was a network thing, and that Lynch/Frost never actually wanted to solve the murder, but still. It happened.)

    The sixth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was problematic for a number of reasons. I see what they were trying to do vis a vis the aimlessness and questionable decision-making a lot of us felt in our early 20s, but my goodness it was not fun to watch.

    No show was better at telling season-long stories that Veronica Mars in its first two seasons. (Its first season, in particular, was practically perfect.) I get why the network wanted shorter and then stand-alone stories, but that took away one thing that made the show so great.

    And as problematic as Roseanne's final season was (and it was very problematic), I really appreciated how the finale recontextualized it.

  3. Dave S11:51 AM

    Sports Night- Dana;s dating plan

  4. Andy as regional manager was not necessarily in and of itself a bad idea. The problem was that they used it as an easy out, basically writing Andy as Michael Scott. Andy was, at least at the start, a potentially more complicated character than Michael. All Michael wanted to be was regional manager of a paper company (despite his Michael Scarn fantasies) and to be everyone's friend, while Andy always had goals beyond that and something of "I'm better than you" (Cornell). However, any nuance in Andy's character got thrown out the window.
    I agree that Jim would have been a much more interesting show, but might have had a depressing ending--Jim wouldn't be fulfilled as regional manager.

  5. Amazing Race: Family Edition.

  6. Adam B.12:54 PM

    Suggested on Twitter: Johnny Cakes.

  7. Adam C.1:24 PM

    I'm still watching too, but the only eagerness I have for the finale is that it will soon be over.

  8. I nominate the Perils of Kim Bauer in S2 of 24.

  9. Adam B.1:55 PM

    Fixed. Yikes.

  10. Jordan2:48 PM

    And they also really, really stuck the landing on the end of the third season. Which somewhat changes my opinion of it.

  11. victoria3:08 PM

    Almost everything in the second season of Heroes. I loved season 1 and made it maybe 2/3 of the way through season 2 before giving up in disgust.

  12. Cousin Oliver.

    Post-Richie Happy Days.

  13. Jenn.9:01 PM

    I think that there is a separate category for blunders from which the show never recovered. Landry and Tyra killed a dude may have been a bigger betrayal of the show's characters and ethos, but FNL rebounded. The Office has never rebounded from its decision to chicken out after Steve Carell left.

  14. I wholly second this. Worst. Plot. Ever.